Blog Home

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

What productions should know as they head back to work
June 9, 2021

Staff Writer

actors on set

Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), along with the entertainment industry’s major unions and guilds, have been working towards enabling productions to resume safely and responsibly. In September of 2020, their efforts culminated in a formal Return to Work Agreement (RTW) that established comprehensive protocols to protect employees as productions returned following the shutdown, contributing to the economic recovery of the industry and the country.

Throughout the pandemic, the industry also has to ensure productions remain in compliance with state and local guidelines. Since the beginning of 2021, those guidelines have begun to shift as more Americans become vaccinated, lockdowns are lifted, and states decide to reopen. The result is mixed; some protocols haven’t changed – like the RTW agreement, which expires June 30th – and some are continually evolving.

With that in mind, we wanted to help by looking at ongoing recommendations, how states are reopening and updating guidelines, and how productions can keep track of all the changes with EP’s COVID-19 Reopening Tracker.

What does the AMPTP’s Return-to-Work agreement require?

Until its expiration on June 30th (it is, however, up for renegotiation) the RTW agreement continues to be the touchstone for productions’ safety, operating conditions, testing, training, sick leave and quarantine pay. Given its importance, here’s a review of its main guidelines, which remain applicable until it is extended or renegotiated:

  • Heightened cleaning and disinfection procedures must be in place.
  • Meals and snacks must be packaged and wrapped individually. Food may not be served buffet style.
  • Contact should be minimized by, for example, limiting shared equipment and transitioning to touch-less, digital documents.
  • A COVID-19 compliance supervisor, responsible for the safety and enforcement of these guidelines, must be trained and assigned to each production. A stipend of $20 per hour of training is available if it occurs outside a regular workday.
  • Employees must receive a PCR diagnostic test within 72 hours of their first day of work – or two rapid tests within 48 hours.
  • The frequency of testing after the initial pre-work screening is determined by the organization of the workforce in four zones, defined by the frequency of interactions they have with co-workers.

Zone A: All performers and background workers. If working five days or more in a week, these individuals must be tested three times (one PCR, two rapid tests). If working less than five days, testing should occur once within 72 hours before each day of work.

Zone B: Employees on hot sets who are near others without personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks or face shields, or need to work within six feet of others for longer than 15 minutes. PCR testing is required once per week, or alternatively, two rapid tests.

Zone C: Employees who wear PPE at all times, are only around others wearing PPE, and never work closer than 6 feet to someone. PCR testing is required every two weeks.

Zone D: All other workers, such as publicists, post-production employees, set designers, costume department, and others. After initial pre-employment tests, no further periodic testing is needed– unless if required to enter any of the above zones.

Note: Producers are encouraged to limit contact further by creating “pods” within zones.

  • A Health Assessment Survey is required from on-set employees at the start of each day and may be submitted electronically or in person.
  • Productions must pay a $250 stipend to employees receiving tests on non-workdays.
  • Quarantine pay is made available for cases where, for example, actors or crew arrive at shooting locations where they must self-isolate for up to two weeks before starting work.
  • Up to 10 days of paid sick leave (no more than $750 per day) is offered to those experiencing an “Eligible COVID-19 Event.” An “event” is defined as an individual (or their family member) testing positive for COVID-19, being asked by a producer to self-isolate after being near someone with COVID-19, or needing to care for children or the elderly.

How can productions track changing COVID guidelines?

Productions are not just guided by the RTW agreement, but by ever-changing federal, state and city-level protocols. There are CDC guidelines to adhere to, although they can change weekly and may not necessarily affect productions in every state. Because some COVID-19 decisions are left to individual states, that means there is no consensus – especially around the question of reopening, something that’s critical to productions moving forward.

Some states consider hospital rates, immunization rates, COVID-19 case numbers, other factors, or all of the above, before deciding to reopen. Some states have already set firm dates for reopening (such as California and Illinois scheduled to reopen in June), while some still have not (New York and New Jersey). Some states are already open and don’t require masks (Georgia and Louisiana), some are open but do require masks (Nevada and West Virginia).

The complex and changing landscape of local, state, federal, and industry-specific guidelines is the reason EP has created the COVID-19 Reopening Tracker. Designed to consolidate key information impacting production locations across the United States, the tracker provides accurate and timely information regarding all COVID-related travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and reopening protocols for each state and key filming jurisdiction so productions can resume safely and operate in compliance.

In order to reflect sometimes day-to-day changes, the tracker is updated every 14 days to list the most current information about federal, state, and city-level COVID-19-related ordinances and protocols. It also tracks entertainment industry union reports and agreements – something that will be especially critical for whatever changes may be made to the RTW agreement after its expiration in June.

For more information, be sure to check out our Master Series Webinar on the Return-to-Work Agreement and stay up to date on changing guidelines with the COVID-19 Reopening Tracker.

Topic: COVID-19

Related Content

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines

How to solve a compounding problem?

The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic

Returning to Production: Hair and Makeup Teams Apply COVID-19 Protocols to Life on Set

Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes
Supplemental COVID sick leave panel

California COVID-19-Related Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and Other Key Sick Leave Developments

Important changes in sick leave laws that Califonia employers and employees need to know
Pressing Play in Eastern Canada Panel

Pressing Play in Canada: From Nunavut to Nova Scotia, Production Returns to the Eastern Provinces!

Producers from across Eastern Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...
All eyes on Florida panel

All Eyes on Florida: Spotlight on Florida Productions

Producers and Commissioners from across Florida discuss production, crews, infrastructure and incentives
Christine Davila, Jairo Alvarado, Sonia Gambaro

Authentic Latinx Storytelling Starts with Inclusion

Christine Dávila, Jairo Alvarado, and Sonia Gambaro work to amplify the talents of underrepresented...

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD

Meet the Paymasters

The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks

Film Financing Explained: Soft Money Financing

Vivian Hua joins our panel of financing and incentive experts to discuss funding film and television...
Canadian flag

5 Things to Know Before Working in Canada

Prepare for your next job in Canada with this checklist of payroll considerations
Topic: Canada
 John Hadity-Guide to Soft Money Financing-sq

The Beginner’s Guide to Soft Money Financing

How filmmakers can capitalize on incentives, film funds, and more to finance their next project
Paul Beyers prop master on set

Meet the Prop Master

From script to screen, the creative mind behind the props from film and television

5 Things to Know Before Relocating for Your Next Job

What production workers need to consider before moving to a new state
Equity Financing Panel-thumbnail

Film Financing Explained: Equity Financing

James Schamus and Michael Helfant join our panel to share expert advice on funding film and television...

The Beginner’s Guide to Equity Financing

Expert advice to help producers secure funding for their next project
Anthony De La Rosa EP Residuals

The Beginner's Guide to Film and Television Residuals

Important details every producer should know as they budget for their next project
Celebrating Pride Month Panel

Celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Film and Television

Celebrate Pride month with us as our panel of groundbreaking producers and activists discuss the past,...

Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion

Entertainment Partners Launches New Production Incentive Tools

New Online Tools help Filmmakers and Producers to Identify their Best Global Tax Incentives

Meet the Producer

From concept to the red carpet, the producer is there to keep the production moving forward

Choosing the Right Production Incentives

5 questions to ask when selecting your next incentive-based filming location

The Path to Better Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

How production incentives are helping to promote inclusivity

Meet the Production Accountant

From budgeting, to billing, to payroll, the financial powerhouse behind every production

Meet The Costume Designer

The artist behind a character's signature style

Global Payroll Titan Award 2021

Davida Lara, CPP, named this year's Global Payroll Titan
Spotlight on Georgia Production Panel

Spotlight on Georgia: The Producers' Perspective

A dynamic group of producers, industry experts, and incentive specialists discuss the state of production...

Innovations in Production Incentives

How emerging local initiatives are driving productions to new jurisdictions

COVID-19 and the Impact on State Unemployment Insurance

How high unemployment claims have led to increased SUI rates across the US

The Beginner's Guide to Production Financing

What to know before starting your next film or television project
Pantea Ahmadi and Joe Scudiero

SB 973's Impact on the Entertainment Industry

How California’s new pay data reporting legislation, SB 973, applys to the entertainment industry
Topic: Legal

Profiles in Leadership: Martin Mazor, SVP and CISO, Entertainment Partners

Why Identity is at the Core of Every New Security and Business Initiative

Entertainment Partners Launches COVID-19 Reopening Tracker

Digital solution to help productions comply with pandemic regulations

FilmOntario Welcomes Four New Board Members at 2020 AGM

Andy Micallef appointed to the FilmOntario Board
Christy Guilbault, Annette Martinez-Novo

EP Cares — The Industry's Leading Health Insurance Program

Learn how to get your production company on the industry’s leading health insurance program for non-union...
On Location in Canadas Western Provinces Panel

On-Location in Western Canada: Protocols, COVID-19 Testing, Incentives...PRODUCTION!

Producers from across Western Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...
Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19 panel

From Domestic TV to Mission Impossible 7: Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19

Lessons learned about producing through a pandemic, and how the Nordic countries got it right

Entertainment Partners Launches Production Finance Studio

New digital solution helps entertainment industry comply with guidelines, reopen safely
Compliance and coverage with EP Cares panel

Compliance and Coverage: Ensuring Health Benefits While Avoiding Pitfalls & Penalties During 2020

How the ACA Premiere and EP Cares programs can help production companies stay compliant and covered

Canadian Industry Directs Financing to Black Media Creators

Move follows Black producers north of the border demanding end to "systemically racist policies."
Covid impact on the workplace panel

Discussing the Impact of COVID-19 on the Workplace

What considerations employers should take into account when returning to the workplace